Building good leaven into the world

by CAROL SHIRK KNAPP Contributing Writer
| January 13, 2021 1:00 AM

Looking out over the river valley, the ground is bare but for scattered patches of snow. A small pond appears iced over. Someone's burning a slash pile and the wispy smoke drifts above the pines. Probably 20 deer are browsing in the field. It seems more like an early spring scene than the heart of January.

It's quiet and peaceful out there. The cloud blanket is just that — gray flannel above the earth. From here, the river has a greenish cast, picking up the color of the evergreens lining its bank. The western mountains seem to block the water's path, but that's an illusion. The Pend Oreille wends its purposeful way north to Canada.

You could think nothing's wrong anywhere if this is all you saw. Sometimes I wish I could slice the world like a loaf of bread, buttering the best pieces to sit down and savor, and letting the rest fall away. But nobody gets to do that. Many elements go into this “world loaf” and we're in it together.

Last week my niece in Washington, D.C., got a “reverse” 911 on her phone — a warning to stay home. Unrest was expected in the city. Safer to hunker down. I haven't spoken with her but I can imagine how she's feeling. How anyone would feel when a place you love gets trampled.

Trampling’s been happening across our country. You might say it's become the new American “rage.” I looked up the word. Trample — to “tread heavily so as to bruise, crush, or injure.” Every single person who's involved in trampling shares one thing — they have given themselves permission.

In my experience when you give yourself permission to take a trampling action it doesn't much matter the morals or legalities. It gains its own momentum and you just do it. The consequences are not in your mind.

I don't think we can be human and not have trampled somewhere — either intentionally or accidentally. I once found a note tucked under a dead cat alongside the road. It said, “I'm sorry. I didn't see it. It was dark.” There was contact information in case a distraught owner wanted to be in touch. It was an unintentional trampling for which the person was sincerely grieved.

But when someone means to trample — whoever it is, whatever the reason — it's an unholy leaven that spreads from the mind through the whole person. There is no feeling sorry. Permission to injure, to damage, to crush has been granted by the gatekeeper — one's own self.

I heard someone say this past week, “2020, Part 2.” For myself I'm calling it, “2021—is this the year we become adults?” For me, that means two things—not participating in any form of intentional trampling, and building good leaven into my life. Leaven that makes this world a better loaf.